RMI TITANIUM Union leaders dispute company's comments
The international union and other unions have given $50,000 to workers.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
NILES -- In a plea for public support, union leaders representing 340 locked out workers at RMI Titanium say they've shown their willingness to bargain by agreeing to $2.38 million a year in concessions.
Todd Weddell, president of United Steelworkers of America Locals 2155 and 2155-7, said he had a press conference Wednesday to clear up confusion about what he called misleading statements by RMI's parent company, RTI International Metals. He wanted to counteract any suggestion that the union has been unwilling to compromise.
"We came prepared to bargain," he said.
Weddell argued that RTI's demand for more concessions is particularly inappropriate when the company's directors recently increased their own pay from $35,000 to $60,000 per year.
The Steelworkers also have called for a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the board's decision to add up to $96,000 a year to the pension of Tim Rupert, president and chief executive, by giving him credit for previous service at USX Corp.
Company spokesman Richard Leone could not be reached to comment. The company's general policy since the lockout began has been to comment only by press release.
Discussing the union's concessionary offers, Weddell said the local proposed a three-year wage freeze. He maintains that the first year of that proposed freeze passed Oct. 26 when workers marked the one-year anniversary of their lockout.
The union has also agreed to foot a larger share of health-care costs and to make cost-saving job combinations and work-rule changes, Weddell said.
Union leaders have conceded to lower wages for future new employees, along with monthly health-care premium payments and 401(k) contributions for those future workers instead of the defined pension plan other RMI workers enjoy.
"RTI's leadership has deliberately distorted the facts to divert attention from the real issue prolonging this lockout," Weddell said. "It's about corporate bosses putting greed before good business at the expense of its employees, its shareholders and this community."
Also Wednesday, Ray Raschilla Jr., unit chairman of Local 2155-7, said other USW locals across the country have contributed $25,000 to the RMI workers' strike and defense fund, and the international union matched that amount.
Local 2155 leaders want to use the money to help members pay bills during the holiday season, he said, but they are working to determine a fair way to disburse the funds.